Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers Pick & Prediction OCTOBER 23rd 2023

HOUSTON — Four years ago, the improbable became reality when the Houston Astros lost Game 7 of the 2019 World Series 6-2 to the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park, capping the first postseason series in league history during which the road team claimed every contest in a seven-game set.

With Houston’s 9-2 loss to the Rangers on Sunday in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, the specter of a repeat of that dubious outcome grew exponentially when Texas forced a decisive Game 7 set for Monday.

After producing a plus-11 run differential while sweeping Games 3-5 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, the Astros fell to 1-4 at home this postseason on the heels of posting a sub-.500 home record during the regular season.

An inability to produce in the clutch continues to plague the Astros, who finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position in Game 6 and are 2-for-17 in the ALCS at home in those situations. Houston loaded the bases with one out, trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, but failed to convert when Mauricio Dubon lined out to short and pinch hitter Jon Singleton struck out on Sunday.

“It’s disappointing,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who named right-hander Cristian Javier the starter for the series finale. “The name of the game is opportunities, and then after that, you hope that you come through. And, yeah, that was — that eighth inning where we had action, and especially with (Dubon) up there, this guy has been coming through all year long, and you know he’s going to make contact. And like I said, some days you just don’t get it done.”

Javier (2-0, 1.69 ERA this postseason) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in the Astros’ 8-5 victory in Game 3. Javier had not allowed a run in his three previous postseason starts and improved to 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA as a starter in the postseason.

Despite enduring an erratic season on the mound, Javier has maintained a levelheaded approach to his craft. With their season on the line, the Astros will require more of the same.

“My thought process is to stay positive and go out and just compete,” Javier said.

The Rangers, who improved to 7-0 on the road this postseason, will counter with veteran right-hander Max Scherzer, who took the loss opposite Javier in Game 3 in what was his postseason debut for Texas and his first appearance since Sept. 12. Scherzer had been sidelined with a muscle strain in his shoulder before returning against the Astros and allowing five runs on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts over four innings.

Though Scherzer (0-1, 11.25) was adamant in the aftermath of that appearance that his arm was healthy, the Rangers are in a position to opt for alternative options should he scuffle after right-hander Nathan Eovaldi logged 6 1/3 innings on Sunday.

“Well, we have a full bullpen because of the job that Nate did,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “So, they’re all hands on deck, as they say. They’re all available. You look at matchups and things like that. But they’re all ready to go.”

Incidentally, Scherzer was the starting pitcher for the Nationals in that fateful Game 7 in 2019.

–MK Bower, Field Level Media

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